Twin Arches, Big South Fork

North Arch of Twin Arches, Twin Arches Loop Trail, BSF, Scott Co, TN

For sometime now I've lamented never having gotten a good shot of either of the Twin Arches at the Big South Fork. Determined to remedy that, I got together with my friend Quentin Jones, and we hit the trail.South Arch of Twin Arches, Twin Arches Loop Trail, BSF, Scott Co, TN

The Twin Arches Loop trail is a very short and easy trail. It leads to probably the most spectacular landform in the Big South Fork, two huge sandstone arches. The dimensions are listed on Tennessee Landforms as 92x70 feet, but I'm not sure which arch that is in reference to.

There are numerous obstacles to getting a good photo of the arches. The first being that they are so huge it's hard to frame them without obscuring them with trees. The next problem is trying to not blow out or underexpose any part of the image.

I really wish that I could get to shoot at dawn or dusk and it would help eliminate that problem. But for some reason my schedule always gets me to my location at about the worst time of day, when the sun is directly overhead. Furthermore, it seems that I'm always shooting directly into the sun. One day I'll learn that sleeping in never facilitates the best photographs.South Arch of Twin Arches, Twin Arches Loop Trail, BSF, Scott Co, TN

Back to the problems with shooting the arches. I intended to overcome the necessity of a wide-angle lens by shooting a photo matrix. If you're not familiar with a matrix, it's like a panorama, but along 2 axis as opposed to one. In other words, x number of images wide and y number of images high. In this case, 2 images high by about 4 - 5 images wide managed to capture (reasonably well) the arches.

As for not over or under-exposing the shots, I was only marginally successful in that. By taking 5 bracketed photos (+4/-4 ev) I was able to get a much wider spectrum of light in each photo.

The full set of photos can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chucksutherland/sets/72157625137407632/with/5082358489/


Cummins Falls - After The Flood

Cummins Falls, Blackburn Fork, Jackson County, Tennessee 16

I crossed Blackburn Fork Creek carefully, in boots, so as to not get them wet. From close to the rim of the waterfall, I looked into the canyon and was shocked by how different it was.

What was once a valley covered in vegetation, was now stripped bare; bedrock exposed on all sides, huge boulders displaced, slabs of concrete from a destroyed bridge (about a quarter-mile upstream) now well below the falls, trees far up the sides of the valley were stripped of bark on their upstream side, NO HUMAN TRASH.

Standing in the valley it was obvious how violent the event was that had just created this scar across the land. But it's a natural event, having occurred millions, perhaps billions of times throughout Earth's history. We just don't live long enough to appreciate geologic time scales.

I seek these moments in which time or events reduce me to something small. It is, I feel, our proper place in the universe. Not that we're unimportant, but we're certainly small, physically and temporally. To catch just a glimpse of the large picture is a truly inspiring place to be.

Maybe that's why I like to put together huge pictures. There's so much to see, and I want to catch all of it. I encourage you to view this photo large and explore. Currently you're zoomed out of the photo by about 15 times. That means there's 15 times the detail if you were so inclined to look.

This is a matrix consisting of eleven HDRs which each consist of 5 exposures (+4/-4). The top panorama was 6 HDRs bracketed from a base exposure of 1/20s and the bottom 5 HDRs form another panorama whose base exposure is 0.5s. All were shot at f-22. Uncompressed this photo is over 200megs and is currently the largest image I've put together at 105 megapixels.

Blackburn Fork Creek, looking upstream to Cummins Falls, Jackson Co, TN

Cummins Falls, Blackburn Fork, Jackson County, Tennessee 17


Flooding in Middle Tennessee, Spring Creek area

August 18th, 2010, Tennessee got a second round of flooding (the May floods that inundated Nashville being the first).

I happened to be free that day and took full advantage of the opportunity to shoot some dramatic flood photos. Let me first say that floods are horrible, and many people's homes and property were destroyed. It's hard for me to balance my sadness for the disaster and loss while being equally awed at natures raw destructive forces. Please don't mistake my enthusiasm for a lack of sympathy for those whose property was lost or damaged.

These photos were taken under the Waterloo road bridge over Spring Creek.
Spring Creek at flood stage detail, under the Waterloo Rd Bridge, Overton Co, TN
Spring Creek under the Waterloo Rd Bridge, Overton Co, TN

These photos are of Waterloo Falls, normally a 35 foot waterfall.
Waterloo Falls, Flood stage, Overton Co, TN
Waterloo Falls, Overton Co, TN

These photos were taken from Waterloo road bridge, looking downstream towards Upper Waterloo Falls. Look for people in the after photo for scale.
Spring Creek at flood stage from Waterloo Rd bridge, Overton Co, TN
Spring Creek from Waterloo Rd Bridge, Overton Co, TN


Sump in Trash Compactor Cave, Cookeville, TN

This was the end of the main trunk of Trash Compactor Cave and the room for which it is named (Trash Compactor scene: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).

All the debris you see here is floating on water. Notice as we move, how the whole mass ripples. It is through this sump that we suspect a connection to Capshaw. Lee Pearson and Jason Collard later went to the closest spot in Capshaw to see if there was any match to debris types and he found plenty of styrofoam. It's a primitive, but possible effective dye-trace.

This cave was accessed after the May 2010 floods when a swallet finally enlarged enough to allow for human visitation.


Trash Compactor Cave entrance, Cookeville, TN

During our sinkhole tour the night of 5/01/10 Jason Collard and I stopped at Warehouse sink. I expected to see the sinkhole filled with pooled up water the same as the last two sinkholes shown. However, this is what I saw instead.
The water is rushing directly into the swallet of the sinkhole, and (based on my prior knowledge of the this streams morphology) I could see that the stream had downcut considerably.

Three days later, after the flood waters had subsided, Jason Collard, Lee Pearson and I accessed Trash Compactor cave via this entrance.

This entrance is likely only accessible intermittently. Stream cross-sections of the creek, collected by Dr. Evan Hart of TTU, shows the sink collecting silt and backing up, alternating with times of deep down-cutting within the silt.

A few hypothesis could explain the cycle. It could be that a cave collapse unplugs the cave to accept more water and downcuts the silt making it the cave accessible. An alternative explanation could be that the stage of water in the sinkhole provides the necessary pressure to force water through a choke or to break the choke and then continues to downcut the silt.

In 2004 a dye trace by Dr. Peter Li and Dr. Hugh Mills of TTU connected Warehouse sink to Capshaw Cave. See TDEC karst study of the Cookeville area, Putnam Co., TN.


Determined Moonshiners Hole

Determined Moonshiners Hole entrance, Roy Price, Gerald Moni, Putnam County, Tennessee "It's not a saucer." - Gerald Moni

I had been contacted by a landowner in Putnam County to check some caves on his property. I met with Gerald Moni, and the landowner's father, Roy P. Roy is an intelligent and likable guy, 72 years old, and in pretty great shape.

We parked on a cul-de-sack and proceeded on foot. It was bitterly cold at 15 degrees, snowing, and windy, perhaps not the best day for a stroll in the woods. But since I work all the time, I take what I can get.

Not far below where we parked was the Hartselle-Monteagle contact, and the features Roy wanted to show us were there. I slipped in the first, a 15 foot dud, but blowing lots of air through a hole about big enough for my cat. The other two were less impressive than that, but all blowing lots of steam.

Gerald and I wanted to field check Determined Moonshiner, a nearby cave. We found it, and after taking pictures of the beautiful ice flow over the entrance, I kicked the ice out and went in to confirm the narrative. I think my only addition was that there was now a waterfall in the back of the cave (perhaps it was dry in 1975?). Climbing through water and ice to get back out into sub-freezing conditions we went to our next destination.

Roy said he knew of another cave whose entrance was even larger than the duds he took us to. We set out on foot from Determined Moonshiner and within 15 minutes had found the new cave.

The entrance is a small vertical climb, whose width and depth closely match the climbdown of Breakdown Palace. It spilled out onto a flow of mud and into a breakdown room about 60 feet across, 200+ feet in length, and an average ceiling height of about 20 feet. To the right the whole trunk dropped abruptly into was I'm guessing is about a 40 foot pit. The ground here was encased in thick black mineral deposits, so seeing the depth of the pit was difficult.

To the left from the entrance the trunk continued about 200 feet with several leads being observed in the breakdown.

I'm re-using the name Saucerful of Secrets (much to Gerald's disappointment) because the other cave I named that was discovered to have a previous name.


Curriculum Vitae

Chuck Sutherland, Cherokee Caverns, Knox County, Tennessee 4 This page is a listing of occurrences of some of my publications, activities, and awards. In this list I include webpages, as well as significant self-published posts. Some of the things here may not fit neatly into a category. I maintain this primarily for personal reasons, but have kept it public in case anyone is interested.


Chuck Sutherland is a caver, a photographer, a geographer, and a conservationist.

Caving for him is a way to better understand the story of the rocks and water. While he is a geographer by training, he loves all science. He frequently partners in his caving projects with scientists like historians, biologists, paleontologists, anthropologists, and geologists. Most of all, he likes to get people excited about caves and caving.

Professionally, Chuck is the Director of Informatics at the Upper Cumberland Development District. Work projects include Greenways and Trails Representative for the Dale Hollow RPO, Cumberland Trails Conference, board member of Friends of Virgin Falls, and assisting with planning in the Upper Cumberland.

His landscape photography has been published in dozens of magazines, books, newspapers, and web pages. Most notably ABC, BBC, and the Discovery Channel have all used his photography.

He has published hundreds of maps in books, magazines, and on the web. His maps and GIS analysis have been awarded by his peers in the Tennessee Geographic Information Council and even recognized by the international GIS software manufacturer, ESRI. Chuck has worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, The Land Trust of Tennessee, and the Cumberland River Compact on conservation oriented projects around Tennessee and Kentucky and all across the United States.

Personal Pages
Contributor / Member

Journal Publications

Paulina Bounds, Charles Sutherland (2018) Perceptual basemaps reloaded: the role basemaps play in eliciting perceptions. The Journal of Linguistic Geography. 6 (2). 2018: 1-24.


Gardner R., Hart E., Sutherland C. (2018) Delineation of a Major Karst Basin with Multiple Input Points, Roaring River, Tennessee. In: White W., Herman J., Herman E., Rutigliano M. (eds) Karst Groundwater Contamination and Public Health. Advances in Karst Science. Springer, Cham


Evan A. Hart, Frank W. Stapor, J. Enrique Novoa Jerez, and Charles J. Sutherland (2016) Progradation of a Beach Ridge Plain between 5000 and 4000 Years BP Inferred from Luminescence Dating, Coquimbo Bay, Chile. Journal of Coastal Research. 7 September, 2017

Yoichiro Kanno, William T. Russ, Charles J. Sutherland, S. Bradford Cook (2012) Prioritizing aquatic conservation areas using spatial patterns and partitioning of fish community diversity in a near-natural temperate basin. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 4 July, 2012



Sutherland, Chuck, and Caralynn Strand, editors. National Speleological Society 2019 Convention Guidebook. National Speleological Society, 2019.



Photography & Videography